Inexpensive Year End Gifts for Teachers

Being that First Financial began as a teachers’ credit union over 85 years ago, we’re privy to one of our largest membership groups and can’t forget our educational roots. Now that the school year is coming to a close and summer is almost here – we thought we’d provide our readers with a list of budget savvy gifts for teachers under $10 (approved by teachers everywhere!).

Gift cards for coffee or inexpensive food options. Think Starbucks, Wawa, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, Taco Bell, or Dunkin.’ $10 goes a long way at these locations too. See what’s local to the area your school is in, and choose the gift card location based on that.

Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? This one really doesn’t require an explanation, and will always go over well.

A nail kit. Put together a cute gift bag with a couple bottles of nail polish and an emery board. Your teacher will be able to show off great summer feet at the beach or pool this summer!

Ornaments. A personalized ornament or one unique to the student (homemade is always good too!) is a great gift. Every year at the holidays when your teacher is decorating their tree, they’ll be reminded of that special class or student.

Custom tote bag. Purchase a blank canvas tote. If your student is very young, have them (or their class) each place a painted handprint with their name under it in fabric marker. You can personalize this bag as much as you’d like, or include the teacher’s name on it too. Teachers always need tote bags, plus now that stores require reusable bags – it can even double as a grocery tote. Beach bags or a towel are another idea for this time of year as well, and can be used for the beach or pool!

Dog treats. Does your teacher have a pet? Buy a box of treats or find a Pinterest recipe to make your own. Put them in a plastic bag with a nice ribbon around it.

People treats. Homemade baked goods are usually always a hit. Think cookies, cupcakes, or muffins. If you have a different specialty like sauce, soup, or homemade salsa – this is another idea. Place the homemade food item in a decorated mason jar, and voila!

Emergency kit. You never know when your teacher might need one! Put together a little zippered bag or case with Advil, Tide to go, a bottle of water, a pack of gum, band aids, pocket tissues, a small packaged snack, and some chocolate.

Plants. Brighten your teacher’s day (and home for the summer) with a bouquet of flowers, bulbs that can be planted in the yard, or a decorative succulent. Your local Trader Joe’s store typically has beautiful plants and flowers for less!

School supplies. Did you know that many teachers buy their own classroom supplies from their pocket? Purchase some art supplies, teaching aids, or even a gift card to a store where your teacher can pick out their own classroom supplies.

Tea. Choose some different flavored tea bags, a bottle of honey, and some cute cocktail napkins and put them together nicely in a small tin or bucket.

Soap. Hit up your local Bath & Body Works and pick out some seasonally scented anti-bacterial hand soaps. Scented travel hand sanitizer always goes well in a post-Covid world too. Put the items together in a nice gift bag, and you certainly can’t go wrong!

Memory book. As a class gift, it might be a nice idea to put together a photo of each student on a different page, and have them write or tell you their favorite memory from the school year and something they learned.

A handwritten letter or note. This type of personalized gift is something a teacher can look back on and remember their individual students, what they taught them, and how many lives they truly touched.

Do you have another gift idea not mentioned here? Drop it in the comments!

Wishing all our educator members and students a wonderful and relaxing summer!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

 

Budget-Friendly Date Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is approaching fast! Have you planned a date with your significant other yet? If you’re like many Americans still recovering their finances after the holiday season, you’re likely looking for inexpensive date ideas that still show your special someone how much they mean to you. The good news is there are so many low-budget ideas out there that only need a bit of creativity and time to pull off.

Keep reading for four budget-friendly Valentine’s date ideas to try this year.

Cook their favorite meal

Does your partner have a favorite meal they like to eat? Instead of going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, recreate that meal at home. Not only will you save money by skipping high-priced dinner and drinks, but you’ll also be able to make enough for leftovers. Not to mention you’ll get to avoid crowded restaurants! Try cooking the meal in advance and surprise your significant other with a romantic, candlelight dinner. Make the dish together if you’re looking for an activity to do alongside one another, and if you both enjoy cooking.

Have a movie marathon

Skip the movie theater and buttery popcorn, and opt for an at-home movie marathon instead. Is your special someone a big Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight fan? All the more reason to surprise them with hours of their favorite movies at the comfort of their own home! Plus, you can have endless snacks, soda, and candy that are way more affordable at your local grocery store.

Get crafty together

You don’t have to be a professional artist to enjoy making arts and crafts with your partner! Enjoy the artistic process together by bringing paint-and-sip to your home or creating a memory book of your relationship. No matter what you make together, you’re guaranteed to remember it and have a fun keepsake of your crafty evening together.

Play games

Embark in some friendly competition this Valentine’s Day with a couples game night. Create a scavenger hunt, play your favorite two-person board and video games, or even create your own game. This could be a great way to learn more about your partner and experience something new together – all while on a budget.

No matter what you decide to do on Valentine’s Day, your financial wellness should always be top-of-mind. That’s where we can come in and help! At First Financial, we put our members’ financial needs first by offering useful products and services that are customized to their lives. To get started, call us at 732.312.1500, email info@firstffcu.com, or stop by any of our local branches.

 

 

How to Avoid Holiday Season Gift Card Scams

It’s the time of year where many scams are prevalent, however lately – gift card scams seem to be popping up and affecting consumers more and more this holiday season. Continue reading to find out how to protect yourself and your finances from this type of fraudulent transaction.

If you ever receive a call, email, or text from someone asking to be paid via a gift card or to buy something by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the numbers on the back of the card – they are attempting to scam you. Before you read any further, know that a legitimate business or government agency will never ask to collect payment via gift card.

Why do fraudsters attempt to collect payment in the form of gift cards? Because they are easy to get, and there are virtually no buyer protections. In other words, it’s basically like using cash. And when the money on the gift card is gone, it’s gone.

How does a gift card scam work?

  • You’ll get a call, email, or text letting you know you’ll need to pay as soon as possible, and that the only way to do so and help is to buy a gift card.
  • The requestor will almost always tell you exactly which gift card to purchase – typically eBay, Google Play, Target, iTunes, and so forth. You might even be asked to purchase the gift card at a specific store, such as Target, Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens. The scammer may ask you to purchase various gift cards at different stores too (this is so the cashier won’t be suspicious).
  • Once purchased, you’ll be asked for the gift card number and PIN. These two items will give the scammer access to all the funds that were loaded onto the card, and once they have that – the money is theirs and they can use it immediately with no way for you to get it back.

If you are thinking the steps listed above are pretty obvious and how could someone actually fall for this type of scam – keep reading.

How scammers convince consumers to purchase gift cards and get away with it:

  • The caller states they are from the government, such as the IRS or Social Security Administration. They’ll tell you that you owe taxes or need to pay a fine, and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The caller says they are with Apple or Microsoft tech support, and that there is something wrong with your device. They’ll also tell you that in order to fix it, you’ll need to go out and purchase a specific related gift card.
  • Online dating sites are another hangout for gift card scammers. If you meet and chat with someone via a dating site or app, and then after they build a connection with you – they tell you they need help and the only way to do so is with a gift card.
  • The scammer spoofs the phone number of a family member or friend close to you, and tells you they’re in trouble and that the only way to help them is to go out and purchase a gift card. If this happens to you, hang up and actually call your relative or friend on your own and ask if they truly need help.
  • You are contacted that you won a prize, however in order to redeem it – you need to pay contest fees with a gift card. This will never happen with a legitimate contest, and – did you ever enter one to begin with?
  • You get a call from your “utility company” threatening to cut off your service unless you pay them with a gift card.
  • Someone contacts you and says you will receive a check in the mail – however it ends up being more than you were told you would be getting. The sender contacts you again and tells you to deposit the check into your bank account, and give them the difference on a gift card. There are two problems here – the gift card payment, and also the check being deposited is typically fake and you may be held liable for that amount by your bank as well.

Here are a few ways to ensure gift cards are used properly and legitimately:

  • Remember that gift cards are for gifts. You should never use a gift card to pay someone.
  • Purchase gift cards at stores you know and trust – don’t buy them online or through a gift card auction site, as they may be fake or stolen.
  • Look the gift card over before you purchase it. Ensure there are protective stickers that have not been tampered with, and make sure the PIN on the back isn’t visible.
  • Keep your receipt after your gift card purchase. This will prove that money was loaded onto the card if you ever need it, as well as the gift card’s ID number will be listed. If you ever lose the gift card, you’ll be able to file a report to close that particular card.

The moral of the story: This holiday season (and any time), be mindful of those who might be trying to scam you into purchasing gift cards. Always remember, legitimate organizations will never ask to be paid in this manner.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

 

Article Source: ftc.gov

Easy Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

Have you started your holiday shopping yet (hopefully)? If you are needing some additional money or looking for ways to save this year, keep reading to find out a few easy ways to keep costs in check from now until the new year.

Only use cash: We’re living in an online world that makes spending money quick, too easy, and through electronic means. If you don’t usually carry cash, this is a friendly reminder that to pay for items – you physically need to shell out the money. This will feel more personal and be a better option if there is a budget you need to stay in line with (which hopefully you made a holiday shopping budget before starting to shop). Using cash is usually enough to make you think twice about what you are buying.

Write everything down: Every time you make a holiday purchase, write it down or save it in a note on your phone. By physically writing down or typing every dollar you use, you’ll quickly realize just how much money you are spending. This also works for non-holiday purchases this time of year. Also jot down other things you are buying (coffee, food, a pack of gum, etc.) for the month to help you realize where you can cut back and what might be unnecessary, impulse purchases. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call to help you cut back on any needless spending.

Layer up: Decreasing your electric or gas bill is another great way to save money this month. Sure, winter is coming in a couple weeks and it may be getting colder – but depending on where you live, your heat may not need to be fully on just yet (or it could at least be lower during the day when no one is home, or at night when you are wrapped up in warm blankets anyway). If the cold doesn’t bother you too much this December, grab a blanket, heavy sweatshirt, and socks – and turn the thermostat down. Dressing in layers can help keep you warmer too.

And there you have it, simple and easy ways to save some money this month!

 

Article Source: CUInsight.com

How to Stay on Your Holiday Season Budget

If you’re on a strict budget this holiday season, it can be hard to not spend more than you should. One way you can achieve this goal (and not rack up costly credit card debt), is by implementing a zero-based budget.

What is a zero-based budget? In simple terms, your income minus any expenditures equals zero. When you’re budgeting for the holidays, it’s helpful to know exactly where every dollar is being spent. Here’s how to make a zero-based holiday budget work for you.

Jot down your total allotted income: For example, say you have $1,000 to spend on holiday gifts and supplies. Before you spend any money, make sure that your total is going to be enough to cover everything that you’d like to purchase.

Write down your expenses: Write down (or create a note on your phone for) everything including gifts, decorations, food, clothing, and so on. Beside each line item, jot down how much you want to spend on each purchase.

Subtract: When you subtract your expenses from your allotted income, you will want it to equal zero. If your numbers don’t come out to zero, move some dollars around or adjust until they do. You may have to look over your list, but once you’ve got it balanced – it’s a very simple concept.

Don’t forget to also track your spending as you go, and match it to your original checklist.

Another idea for next year? Set-up a Holiday Savings Account. During the year, you’ll be able to automatically deduct money from each of your paychecks and have it sent to a special savings account. The idea behind this type of account is to set it up so that you don’t see this money during the year and then when you need it for holiday shopping – it’s there.

Are there any holiday traditions you can cut out? Think expensive card photo shoots, excessive holiday outdoor lights, or exchanging gifts with every member of your extended family. Try to come up with easier, less expensive alternatives for these traditions – or stop them altogether.

If you stick to your original plan and holiday budget, you’ll be right where you need to be – come the new year.

Happy Holidays!

 

Article Sources: CUInsight.com and Ramseysolutions.com

Tips for Creating and Sticking to Your Holiday Budget

It’s that time of year again! Here are some budget conscious shopping tips as we head into the holiday season.

Set a Spending Limit: Before you start to shop, decide on an amount that you are comfortable with and can afford to spend on gifts this year. Be realistic and firm, and stick to this spending limit throughout the holiday season. Don’t forget to also factor in your regular monthly bills that will need to be paid during this time.

Don’t Forget You Might Need to Buy Other Items Besides Gifts: Other factors to include in your holiday spending budget might be travel, gift wrap, decorations, food, and clothing. These items may be outside of the holiday gifts you are purchasing, but can still add up and blow your holiday budget if you forget about them.

Do Your Research: Before you head out to the store or make an online purchase, do your research. How much do the things on your list cost, and are there any promotions or online deals you can take advantage of to save money? If the items on your list are ones you have purchased in the past, see if you have previous receipts or online order emails to remind yourself how much the items cost or where you purchased them.

Make a List: At the beginning of the season, make a gift list with one or two ideas for each person – within your budget of course. Try to create this list as soon as possible, so that if any of the items on it are on sale – you can get them early and at a discount. Be sure to also stick to your list – once it’s made, it’s made. Try not to buy extras or overspend.

Scale Back: If you’re on a tight budget and your gift list includes many people outside of immediate family or kids, you might need to consider cutting your gift list. Instead, you can always try a homemade gift that’s much less expensive for adults outside of immediate family (baking cookies, crafting something personalized) to save your holiday spending budget.

Try Secret Santa: If you have a rather large family or a big friend group – you can always try the Secret Santa gift method. This way you won’t have to buy an individual gift for everyone – you can simply pick one name out of a Santa hat, the group will set the spend limit together as a whole so it’s the same for all, and then you only have to buy one gift.

Compare Prices: Once your list is made, start doing some comparison shopping to see where you can purchase the items that will save you the most money. Check out early Black Friday deals (which many retailers have been participating in for 2021), Black Friday sales, Cyber Monday savings, and online coupons. Be sure to also sign up for emails with the retailers you plan to shop with this year, as well as follow their social media pages to keep an eye out for timely promotions.

Track Your Spending: Once you start purchasing gifts, keep a tally of how much you are spending to make sure you are in line with your original budget. Keep this as up to date as possible so you know how much you’ve spent and what is still left to buy.

Happy Holidays!

Article Source: News 12 New Jersey